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Emilia Romagna

January in Rimini Amarcord

“Rimini is a mess, confused, fearful, tender, with this great breath, this open emptiness of the sea. Nostalgia becomes clearer there, especially the winter sea, the white crests, the great wind, as I saw it the first time…”

January is a month full of expectations for a new year filled with “fire”, good intentions, dreams and prepositions that warm up the soul and let the imagination run wild. January is the first of twelve months during which in the collective imagination everything has the flavor of beginning.

So it was for Federico Fellini, whose birthday we celebrate on January 20, 1920. He was born in Rimini, to a Roman mother, Ida, and a Romagnolo father, Urbano. At a young age, Fellini left his city of origin,  to spend a year in Tuscany, and a lifetime in Rome. He arrived at Roma Termini station nineteen years after his birth, with a goal: study law. It was 1939 and as everyone knows the young Fellini was everything but a man of law. Instead, shortly after his arrival in Italy’s capital, decided to follow his inspiration and the whispers of the creative genius which he had and hid within himself earlier on; a unique creativity that started emerging though his drawings, comics and satirical articles that appeared in various national newspapers, first in the beautiful Florence, then in the capital and finally, in the whole world. His cinematographic works have quite literally changed the world of cinema and placed noteworthy Italian cities front and center in the history of the seventh art: Rome, the city of the “dolcevita”, but also Rimini, the director’s birthplace.

He not only immortalized Rimini, thanks to skilful constructions in Cinecittà, as in his Oscar-winning film “Amarcord” (released in 1973), but also narrates it in his 1967 book: “My Rimini”. The choice of the title Amarcord, derives from the dialect of his land of origin Romagna; it’s the abbreviation of “I remember”.  To be exact, “A m’arcord” in Romagna, is a skilful mixture of four  words: love, remember, bitter and heart. Fellini, when he thought of this film’s screenplay, he wanted to evoke a feeling of farewell “to a certain season of life, that incurable adolescence that always risks possessing us.” Words which not only evoke a very personal sentiment but have become synonymous with his cinematographic style. 

The word “ricordo”, which makes up the last part of “A m’arcord”, derived from the Latin “recordari”, a word that has the prefix “re” and the noun “cor” that is heart. In the heart resides the memory and there it always manifests itself as a sincere feeling, whether it be positive or negative. As the French language also testifies, the expression “learn by heart” is actually “par coeur”, remembering through the heart.

As Fellini remembered the images of his city and made them unforgettable to the world through his films, Rimini wanted to reciprocate that feeling by dedicating an entire urban area in San Giuliano made of murals and sketches to his memory. This is one of the most characteristic neighborhoods of the Romagna Riviera made of unique colors and architectural styles, just like the area beloved by Fellini surrounding the city’s circus in front of Castel Sismondo, a stone’s throw from the sea, with houses with low and cobbled roofs one on top of the other, where each of us can relive the dream. San Giuliano is just beyond the unbeatable Istrian stone bridge of Emperor Tiberius, one of the most visited wonders of Rimini together with the “Domus del chirurgo“, a complex of Roman mosaics including that of Orpheus. Both are just a few steps from the Malatesta Temple, a Renaissance jewel by Leon Battista Alberti which houses a crucifix by Giotto and a fresco by Piero della Francesca. Rimini offers many faces, as befits a town that has often changed, but which always seems at the mercy of the past, anchored to traditions, rhythms and events of nature.

And that’s just, because summer or winter, the Riviera gives back a bittersweet flavor, which remains, strong and persistent.

With the sun, the Grand Hotel in Rimini looks like a rock of white salt lit by the sun, towering over the sea. For more than half a century it represented the taste of Italian living. The Art Nouveau building, the park, and the large terraces were designed in 1908, and in 1994 they were declared a national monument by the Superintendency of Fine Arts.

“On summer evenings the Grand Hotel became Istanbul, Baghdad, Hollywood. On the terraces, protected by curtains of dense plants, one glimpsed the bare backs of women who looked like gold, tied by male arms in white tuxedos “. Here, the fairytale location of a thousand and one nights hosted characters such as Alberto Sordi, Sofia Loren, Lady Diana, Fellini himself, no longer a boy with his friend Titta Benzi, but as a mature and successful man. The five-star hotel on the Adriatic Sea was the cornerstone of the golden age of the city, when it was the favorite point of reference for the VIPs of the international jet set, the world of cinema and entertainment which then, driven by the fever of the disco of the 80s, poured into Lady Godiva, the most coveted historical nightclub of the period located in via Luci del Varietà. It sadly no longer exists. 

In January, however, regardless of snow or fog, the luxurious Grand Hotel of Rimini turns into a Fellini legend, in a muffled and silent building, a secret lighthouse, elegantly illuminated by some Christmas lights that signal its presence in the darkness of the night, as if it were the neon sign of some forgotten cinema. The dreamy atmosphere gives it a phantasmagoric nuance, which seems to dissolve with the single passage, in a breath.

About his city, Fellini said:

“Rimini is a mess, confused, fearful, tender, with this great breath, this open emptiness of the sea. Nostalgia becomes clearer there, especially the winter sea, the white crests, the great wind, as I saw it the first time … “

Among the many presences of the director in Rimini he is also remembered at the airport and the square of the Grand Hotel, which bear his name, and the Cinema Fulgor, in corso d’Augusto, the ancient decumanus of the Romans. When Federico was a child he was attracted by the magic of celluloid and by the darkness of the room that projected Bartolomeo Pagano’s film “Maciste all’Inferno” (1925). The eighteenth-century building that houses the Cinema, home to the most beautiful films of the time, is one of the symbols of Rimini. The legendary Fulgor was one of the names with which it is said that Fellini had baptized the four corners of the bed in his house, a corner for every cinema in Rimini. It was inaugurated at the behest of Ida Ravulli, but it belonged to the Valloni brothers and, in 1920, precisely the same year in which the director of Amarcord was born, the Fulgor took its final form under the hands of the architect Valadier. What for Fellini was at the time only a “shack” and a playground for puppeteers, soon became a real Art Nouveau building, a golden temple with red velvet armchairs. Perhaps the director, in his childhood, already saw it this way.

And if there is one of the many things that a film master can teach us, it is that the dream life is no less important than the day one. We are made of the same substance as dreams of stardust. And the stars “are not confetti” right?

Rimini, Grand Hotel, settembre 1983. Omaggio a Fellini. Il regista in un momento di pausa.